Review – Renovo FatAsh Wooden Bike

The founder of Renovo Hardwood Bicycles, Ken Wheeler, dreamed up the idea of building a hollow-framed wooden bike back in 2007 after studying the positive attributes of wood structures used in historic wooden airplanes. Wheeler, an engineer, avid cyclist found that wood offers better vibration damping and stiffness than traditional materials. Renovo was born and a decade later the company is still going strong with 15 full-time employees in its Portland, Oregon, shop. The FatAsh is a hardtail, set apart from any other with a well engineered wooden frame.

QUICK TECH

  • Wooden frame
  • 120-millimeter Fox 34 Factory
  • SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain
  • SRAM Guide Ultimate brakes
  • $6,200
  • 27.5 pounds (with XT Trail pedals)

 

WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

The majority of bikes we test are popped out of a mold or hydroformed, the Renovo FatAsh begins life as a pile of lumber in the back of a wood shop. The FatAsh is constructed from hollow hardwood tubes, which reduce frame weight and allow for internal cable routing with inner sleeves. This wooden frame features asymmetrical chainstays, Boost hub spacing, a threaded bottom bracket and a tapered head tube. Renovo designed the FatAsh’s frame to be 1x-specific and to handle a 120-millimeter-travel fork.

 

WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?

Our test bike came decked out with a SRAM Eagle drivetrain, Fox fork and WTB plus-sized wheels and tires. All combined, our test rig would sell for $6195. Riders can purchase a complete FatAsh with an XT build kit for $4995 or a frame for $2745. The Eagle drivetrain worked flawlessly during our testing and gave us plenty of gears. The Fox 34 fork was super plush and was easy to adjust.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Setup: The beauty of a hardtail mountain bike is how easy it is to set up, and the FatAsh is no different. We adjusted the fork to 25-percent sag and then adjusted our rebound and low-speed settings to match our local trails. The next place we focused our attention was our plus-sized wheels. We found tire pressures around 18 psi in the front and rear worked well for our 3-inch-wide WTB Ranger tires.

Moving out: The FatAsh is a rideable piece of art that gets attention everywhere it goes; however, to our surprise, this wooden bike doesn’t feel all that unfamiliar out on the trails. Many of our test riders forgot they were riding a wooden bike at all. Renovo’s hollow hardwood tubing allows the FatAsh to be as light as some carbon bikes while also being equally stiff, if not stiffer. The frame then offers another surprise with its ability to damp trail vibrations. The hardcore cross-country racer may want to stick to his ultra-efficient and lightweight carbon race bike, but the hardtail enthusiast will likely love the unique feel of this hardwood frame.

Climbing: Renovo offers the FatAsh in two wheel sizes, and while we only tested this bike with plus-sized wheels, we believe the 29er version would likely be the faster climber of the two. Regardless, the FatAsh charged the hills with authority, and its wide tires provided excellent traction. The frame proved to be both stiff— allowing for efficient out-of-the-saddle pedaling—and lightweight, making the effort of those pedal strokes count. In an allout race to the top of a hill, we wouldn’t count out the FatAsh.

Cornering: Renovo engineered the FatAsh with a tight wheelbase and a slack head tube so riders could attack their local singletrack. The FatAsh shines on flowy cross-country trails and inspires confidence when railing turns due to its well-planted front end, wide tires and dropper seat post. Our test riders found the 80-millimeter stem and 750-millimeter handlebars complemented this bike’s geometry well, and the added traction of plus-sized tires allowed us to have a little more fun confidently craving our way down the trails.

Descending: It’s not every day we ride bicycles made out of wood, so to no one’s surprise, our test riders had their doubts about how hard we could push this machine. We dove into our first descent cautiously, but soon realized the FatAsh was more than capable of barreling down our fastest hills. The wooden frame combined with large air-volume tires provided a smooth ride while also feeling solid ripping down the trails. Our test riders soon had no reservations aboard the FatAsh and found it could jump and flow the trails as well as any other hardtail.

TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?

Our test rig came with a great build kit that pleased all of our test riders; however, we did have a minor problem with our Thompson dropper, forcing us to trade it for another post during our testing period. Other than that slight mishap, the rest of our bike was solid, and we felt no need to change or upgrade any parts.

 

BUYING ADVICE

Renovo took an innovative approach to bike design, and a decade later the company is still pursuing its craft. The FatAsh is a beautiful example of craftsmanship, and it doesn’t take an expert carpenter to notice that. We were literally stopped on almost every ride by a rider with a puzzled look on his face as he stepped closer and asked, “Is that wood?” The FatAsh is an attention-grabbing bike, but it can back up its beauty with its amazing ride quality. If you’re in the market for a hardtail that will smooth out the trails and be “at one” with the woods you’re riding through, then give Renovo a call.

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